Welch leaves lasting impression on UH foes
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
University of Hawai'i football player Gerald Welch usually makes a wrong first impression.
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"People take him for granted because of his size," Tim Chang says of slotback Gerald Welch.
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"I've never been carded," said Welch, who began shaving in seventh grade and going to clubs as a Saint Louis School sophomore.
His football "game face" is a facade for a person who turned a marriage proposal into a Lifetime Channel moment. In front of Dominique's mother and aunties, Welch took a knee and offered his 'til-death-do-us-part love to the Girl Next Door.
"I almost cried," he admitted. "She's so beautiful, such a nice lady ..."
"It was the longest speech I've ever heard," Dominique said. "He's such a sweet person."
To football opponents, Welch is hardly Webster's definition of a receiver. At 5 feet 8 and 202 pounds, Welch has jabong legs and a tombstone build.
"People take him for granted because of his size," UH quarterback Tim Chang said. "When he suits it up, he's a different person. He can really play. He's a great athlete."
Every season, it seems, Welch battles obscurity. This year, Se'e Poumele replaced injured Nate Ilaoa as the Warriors' starting right slotback, and freshman Jason Ferguson is pushing for playing time.
But when a hamstring injury forced Poumele to leave the season-opening game, it was Welch who was summoned. Two of his five catches resulted in first downs.
"He's really, really smart," UH coach June Jones said. "He understands what we do and what he needs to do, and he catches the ball. He's ready to go in at any time ready to be accountable and that's what you need."
Welch compensates for his lack of "top-side speed" the vernacular for outracing defenders on deep routes with what he describes as the "wrestler's mentality."
At Saint Louis, Welch finished every wrestling practice by competing against his coach. "He was always trying to break me down in practice," Welch recalled. "He would yell: 'You gonna give up, Gerald? You gonna give up?' I kept going. When you think you can't go anymore, you push a little harder. It's the concept I follow every day."
Welch, who weighed 182 as a wrestler, even volunteered to compete in a heavier division.
"And he used to pin them, too," said Chang, who has known Welch since the sixth grade. "He's very competitive."
Welch said he reviews videotapes of UH's practices and future opponents' games.
"I try not to make the same mistake twice," he said.
UH's read-and-attack offense requires each receiver to plan his pass route based on the way a defensive back is positioned. "That's why it's important to watch film," he said. "Sometimes you know what (defenders) are going to do by the way they line up."
He also will use several techniques to break into open areas. On one play against Florida Atlantic, he ran straight ahead for 10 yards, then cut to the outside. Double covered on the next, he appeared to run the same route, this time breaking off after nine yards. The yard cushion gave him ample elbow room.
"As far as knowing everything and knowing where everybody is going to be, he's the best," left slotback Chad Owens said. "I'm happy for Gerald. He works really hard, and he never says anything. He never complains. He's not very big, but he's a tough son of a buck."
That attitude changes during the long ride back to Kahuku. "He's a great husband and a great dad," said Dominique. "He's a great help at home."
Dominique and Gerald, who were married on July 10, are expecting their second child in January. Harvey Welch is 1 1/2.
"I'm a very fortunate person," Welch said.
The NCAA recently approved the eligibility of freshman quarterback Tyler Graunke, who will redshirt this season. The approval was delayed because of a miscommunication between Graunke's Arizona high school and the Clearinghouse.
Defensive end Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan said he will learn next week about his status for the Sept. 18 road game against Rice. Akpan must serve a one-game suspension for his role in an on-field scuffle following last year's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. Akpan has completed his community service, working with children and senior citizens in Palolo Valley. "I enjoyed it," he said. "I liked helping people. It showed me the other side of life."
Reach Stephen Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8051.